September 3, 2009

Heritage Hall has Big-Time Family Ties

OKLAHOMA CITY - Year in and year out national titans of high school football like Jenks, Tulsa Union, Clinton, and Carl Albert hold the attention of most everyone within the state of Oklahoma. In the next three years the focus may shift to a program that has only become a contender over the past decade in the much smaller 2A classification will hold not only the state's attention but the nation's for the next three years.

But that's exactly the role that Heritage Hall will hold with a roster full of famous football names.

While there have been plenty of sons of great players that have come into's database none have carried the weight of expectation that follows Chargers sophomore running back Barry Sanders Jr..

"We've had interview requests from USA Today, and just about every national paper you can think of trying to talk to Barry," Heritage Hall head coach Andy Bogert said. "We're trying to deflect as much as we can from him but obviously he knows everyone is watching him."

While Sanders quickly become a national phenomenon following a youtube clip of an amazing run in the 2A state semi-finals, a performance he followed up with three touchdowns in the state title game, there is one interesting reality that most remain unaware of.

Sanders won't even be a starter this year for the Chargers.

So who is the future answer to Barry Sanders Jr. trivia?

Senior running back Tanner France.

"Tanner has earned the starting spot but it's not like Barry won't be playing a ton for us, we'll shuttle those guys in and out," Bogert explained.

Unlike his famous father Sanders Jr. will also be making his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball starting at cornerback for the Chargers, a position that he seems to be acclimating himself to nicely picking off a pair of passes during practice on Thursday.

The scary part for linebackers is Sanders stands a sturdy 5-foot-11, and 190-pounds with time to continue to grow.

More than Just Sanders Jr.

In an unbelievable collection of name talent Sanders Jr. is only one of three 2012 Chargers whose family is well known within Oklahoma football circles.

For Sooner fans Sterling Shepard hails from a family that will bring a lot of smiles to Sooner faces. His father, the late former Sooner and Dallas Cowboys receiver Derrick Shepard, was a receiver during Barry Switzer's monstrous run through the mid-1980s and his son shows signs of being a similarly talented athlete.

However, Shepard may shows signs of being a more elite defensive back than receiver but with much time between himself and graduation there is a long way to go before anyone knows just what he brings to the table.

In an unfortunate twist, Shepard isn't the only Charger to have lost a famous pass-catching father.

While Mandrell Dean may never have found the NFL and college football glory that Shepard did; in the fall of 1992 there was little doubt that Dean would.

His son, Quintaz Struble, will have a chance to pick up where his father left off as he is the expected starter at both defensive tackle and tight end of the Chargers this year. Though a bit undersized for either right now Struble has a big frame and may have a real future as a strongside defensive end or a very athletic interior defensive lineman.

Both Stuble and Shepard are a ways away from being finished products but in spite of famous fathers who made their names scoring touchdowns they may be best suited to slow scoring in the future.

Sadly for Struble he'll miss his entire season after tearing knee ligaments in Hall's final pre-season scrimmage.

It seems that contrarians run rampant at Heritage Hall as the cousin of current Sooner All-American defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is working as a freshman on Heritage Hall's offensive lineman.

The Best of the Bunch?

While Sanders Jr. started to become highly notable during the playoffs last year it was another freshman that started from day one, 2012 linebacker Marc Robinson. In fact, as legend has it Robinson was named the starter the second day of his freshman fall.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound linebacker also stars as a fullback for the high-flying Charger offense but it's on defense where most feel he'll make his impact in the college game.

"He took over quickly for us and just made a lot of plays," Bogert said of yet another prize pupil.

Robinson is a physical player who seems years ahead of his contemporaries in his comfort with the game. If he continues to grow and develop he very well may rivals Sanders Jr. as a recruit.

Regardless of how the rankings turn out there is no doubt that one major program after another will learn how to find the little program in the extreme North of Oklahoma City.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Following's trip to Heritage Hall former Charger offensive lineman, and 2011 prospect, Levi Fisher elected to give up football due to a medical ailment beyond his control.

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